Alternative Decking Options: Composite Wood, PVC and More
The alternative decking industry has experienced many changes in the last five years. The addition of a second-generation composite deck material as well as PVC decking products gives consumers more options than ever.
Fiberon has put a 10-year stain and fade warranty on the Luminite™ system —an industry first. “The 10-year warranty is huge,” says George Drummond, founder and owner of Casa Decks, a deck contracting business in based in Virginia Beach, Va. “I think you’ll see a lot of the other PVC manufacturers improving their products to try to match it.” Drummond specializes almost exclusively with composite and PVC decks—the so-called “alternative” decking products—and he
Fiberon’s Sesibuilt™ PVC decking has a 10-year warranty against staining and fading.
sees benefits to working with both types of product. “PVC is a lot lighter,” he says, speaking to the ease of working with and installing the product.
Not only is PVC inherently lighter than composite decking, it does not contain any wood fibers, which are the main culprits behind the fading and mold and mildew growth experienced by first-generation composite decking products. PVC decks are also often preferred for pool deck application as the material does not absorb the Sun and hold heat as much as composite decking can. The PVC alternative is not without some drawbacks, however. It is often considered a less sturdy product and it commonly costs more than composite decking.
New Wood Looks New wood looks for both composite and PVC deck products have developed along with the new protective surface technologies. “There are so many more grain and color options,” says Drummond. Natural-looking reds, browns and grays remain the staples, while the exotic look of tropical wood is also available in products such as Trex’s “Brasilia” and Fiberon’s “Tropics” lines of composite decking. TimberTech, another manufacturer, has a “Color Visualizer” tool on its Web site to help consumers choose from 10 deck board colors and match to eight railing color options. “You can put real hardwood down next to the composite version and you won’t be able to tell the difference,” says Beyer.
Railing Systems and Accessories A wider range of available railing system colors has matched the increase in alternative decking color and grain options. “The industry has moved well beyond the simple white railing option,” says Beyer. From the elegant “Designer” line of railing systems from Evergrain to the classic and versatile “Builder” rail from TimberTech, each manufacturer has expanded its railing offerings to include a variety of styles and a number of color options within each style. Like their deck board counterparts, the railing systems and components are composed of composite materials or PVC, depending on the manufacturer and the product line. Extended warranties—sometimes up to 25 years—against cracking, splitting and rotting are common. Railing components include balusters, handrails, posts, post caps, post sleeves or skirts and spindles.
Contractors like Drummond commonly round out their deck packages to include lighting systems in addition to the decking and rail systems and components. TimberTech makes the lighting addition even easier, building optional lighting modules light fixtures into its railing products. A packaged lighting system can put the finishing touch on a new deck and railing project.
Hidden Fasteners The alternative decking manufacturers have also made advancements in their hidden fastener systems. More than a few lines of composite deck boards are formed with grooves along the sides of the boards. Tabbed fasteners that screw directly into the joists below the deck also slide into the grooves of adjoining deck boards, firmly holding the deck boards together without the need of unsightly face nails. Proper installation of the hidden fastener systems should ensure a gap left between deck boards for ventilation and water drainage.
The new second-generation alternative decking products on the market speak to the consumer demand for true low maintenance decking options. Whether purchasing a second-generation composite decking product or an enhanced PVC deck, consumers can enjoy the confidence that their new deck will retain its real-wood look for years to come—without the constant upkeep required of natural wood.